Abandoned Vehicles

An abandoned motor vehicle is a vehicle that has a valid registration plate or public vehicle identification number (which has not been removed, destroyed, or altered) and has remained on either public or private property (or on/along a highway), without the permission of the property owner (or the person in control of the property) for more than 48 hours,
OR
A motor vehicle that does NOT have a valid registration plate (or the public vehicle identification number has been removed, destroyed, or altered) and has remained on either public or private property (or on/along a highway) without the consent of the property owner (or person in control of the property) for any period of time.

Note: The "public identification number" is the number which is usually visible through the windshield and attached to the driver's side of the dashboard, instrument panel, or windshield pillar post or on the doorjamb on the driver's side of the vehicle.

Exceptions

A vehicle or other equipment used or to be used in construction or in the operation or maintenance of highways or public utility facilities (as long as it is left in a manner which does not interfere with the normal movement of traffic) cannot be considered to be an abandoned motor vehicle.

Removal from Public Property

Only a law enforcement officer is authorized to remove (or bring about removal of) an abandoned motor vehicle from public property, and may contact a towing service for removal of the motor vehicle. This must be based upon personal observation by the officer that the vehicle is abandoned.

Removal from Private Property

A law enforcement officer is authorized to remove (or bring about removal of) an abandoned motor vehicle from private property, and may contact a towing service for removal from private property of the vehicle. Removal by a law enforcement officer is based upon complaint of the property owner (or person in control of the property) on which the vehicle is located that the vehicle is abandoned.

A private property owner (or person in control of the private property) is authorized to remove (or bring about removal of) an abandoned motor vehicle from that property, and may contact a towing service to remove an abandoned vehicle. If a private property owner (or person in control of the private property) removes or brings about the removal of an abandoned motor vehicle, s/he must immediately notify the police agency in the jurisdiction from which the vehicle is removed. Notification must include identification of the registration plate number, the public vehicle identification number, make, model, and color of the vehicle. The movement/removal of an abandoned vehicle will not result in any civil liability to the owner of the abandoned vehicle.

Certification

Within 30 days of removal of the abandoned vehicle, the towing service which has removed the vehicle must apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles for an abandoned motor vehicle certification (form #VN-012). An abandoned motor vehicle certification form must indicate the date of removal, make, color, model, location found, and the name, address, and phone number of the towing service, and a certification (by a law enforcement officer of the public vehicle identification number, if any.

Upon receiving a completed abandoned motor vehicle certification form, the DMV will attempt to identify and notify the owner of the vehicle as required by law. If no owner can be determined by the DMV within the time period allowed by law, the DMV will issue a Certificate of Abandoned Motor Vehicle along with an appropriate title or salvage title, and the vehicle may be disposed of as indicated below.

Reclaiming an Abandoned Vehicle

The DMV will make a reasonable attempt to locate the owner of an abandoned motor vehicle.

If the abandoned motor vehicle is not identifiable by its registration plates or public vehicle identification number, and if no owner can be determined within 21 days of the date of receipt of the completed abandoned motor vehicle certification form (VN-012), the DMV will issue a Certificate of Abandoned Motor Vehicle with an appropriate title or salvage title.

If the abandoned motor vehicle is identifiable by its registration plates or public vehicle identification number, the DMV will (within three business days of receipt of the completed abandoned motor vehicle certification form), send notice to the last known registered owner and any lienholder of the vehicle. The notice will be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, and will advise the last known registered owner of the vehicle's location and a telephone number where additional information about the vehicle may be obtained. If the receipt is not returned to the department within seven business days, the DMV will send a second notice (by first class mail). Within 21 days of sending the second notice, the last known registered owner (or lienholder) may reclaim and retrieve the motor vehicle by presenting to the DMV satisfactory evidence of ownership, and paying or arranging to pay any fees or charges authorized by law. If the last known registered owner (or lienholder) fails or refuses to reclaim the vehicle within 21 days of the second mailing, the DMV will issue a Certificate of Abandoned Motor Vehicle with an appropriate title or salvage title.

An owner or lienholder may reclaim an abandoned motor vehicle by presenting to the DMV satisfactory evidence of ownership, and paying or reimbursing, or making arrangements to pay or reimburse, the towing agency, the DMV, or private property owner (or person in control of the private property) any towing fee or storage charges permitted by Vermont law.

Fees and other costs

Towing fees:
For towing an abandoned motor vehicle from private property, a towing service may charge a reasonable fee to be paid by the private property owner (or person in control of the private property).

Storage charges:
In addition to any towing fee, an owner (or lienholder) reclaiming an abandoned motor vehicle may be charged and must pay a fee for the costs of storage of the vehicle, however, no fee may be charged for storage for any period prior to the date upon which the form for abandoned motor vehicle certification is sent by the towing service to the DMV.

Related Forms & Information

Contact Us

Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles
120 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05603-0001

Monday-Friday: 7:45am-4:30pm
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